TEXAS: Health Department Wants HIV Reporting By Name
"The Texas Department of Health wants doctors and laboratories to use patient names rather than code numbers to report HIV cases to the state," the Texarkana Gazette reports. The coded identifier system is "not performing like we need it to," said Dr. Sharon Melville, director of HIV/STD epidemiology with the state health department. "Our main recommendation is to move to name-based reporting," she said. Echoing the need for name-based reporting, HIV Bureau Chief Dr. Charles Bell said, "Without such a system, we can't effectively target prevention strategies to populations most vulnerable to HIV infection. And our ability to validate increasing HIV caseloads is hampered." Texas has used a coded identifier system for three years, but Bell said "changing the current system is so vital because thousands of reports each year are either missing unique identifier codes or are incomplete."
A Controversial Move
The Gazette reports that "many around Texas are expected to balk at the" recommendation, "[c]iting potential confidentiality problems." But Bell noted that the state has reported AIDS cases by name since 1987. "I do think there will be resistance to this but we do take confidentiality very seriously. This HIV name-based reporting system won't be any more open to the public than the AIDS reporting system." If the recommendation is adopted, Melville stressed that "there still will be another option for those uncomfortable with the name-based method." She said, "We are emphasizing that we will continue to have anonymous testing where people can put a fictitious name on their report. This won't provide a safety net because we can't follow up on them. But we're keeping this as an option for people who would not test otherwise" (Beckerdite, 2/4).